Mark 8

Okay, so it’s 10:36 pm and I’m finally getting around to cracking open my Bible. But the good news is that I did manage to crack it open tonight.

I’m feeling compelled to give some background into my quiet time skittishness of the past 10 or so years. There was a time when I’d open my Bible (almost every day), read the Word, make application, and really think I was hearing from the Lord. When I was a freshman in college I made friends with a girl on a ski trip who, after talking for a bit asked me in a hushed but excited voice, “Do you believe in Bible promises too?”

Bible promises? Sure! I had no idea what she was talking about other than that sometimes in the Bible God made promises to people. I readily agreed with her. Turns out she was talking about something in which any random verse pops out to you and you claim it as your own personal Bible promise. I tell you, there was a time the line between hope and promise was a mighty blurry thing. I fully believed that based on some random verse in the old testament that I would one day have twin boys. I planned to name them Ezekiel and Zechariah and call them Zeke and Zach. You can see that I was right on track there with my four single-birth girls, hmmm?

Anyway, I began to be a bit troubled by what I grew to understand as contextual readings of Scripture and how verses, read in isolation, taken out of context, can really do some damage. It can make you believe things that were never yours to believe. Then, when what you so faithfully thought to be true turned out not to be, it makes you question the very core of your belief in God. I know.

The Navigators, for all the great things they do, and for all the scripture I really did memorize in college which I’m grateful for, weren’t all that helpful to me in this department. Most of the verses I memorized were singles taken out of contexts. Some of them were given appropriate “topics,” but some of them were given topics they had no business associating themselves with. I’m a company gal, though, and didn’t question it at that time.

Later, though, someone else pointed it out to me. I finally started thinking. I started thinking, “Wait a minute – you mean to tell me that this topical memory system isn’t as inspired as the verses they organize?” I then started wondering what else I’d been taught that I should maybe question.

The next logical discipline to come under my critical scrutiny was the hallowed quiet time. Up to that point I was reading the word, pulling out verses, making them apply to me in whatever way I could. I began to wonder if that wasn’t the way to go, but I didn’t know what the opposite of that was. Eventually in our long, sordid history of joining the church (at that time it was, “pick a church, any church!”), we found ourselves in the reformed tradition. Grace became more than a girl’s name or something said over dinner. It was an open door for me to step through. Two things happened: 1) I relaxed a lot in my works-based understanding of “working out my salvation” and 2) I relaxed too much in my understanding of my role in pursuing holiness.

In short, I leaned too heavily on my grace crutch to excuse a life not devoted to prayer and the Word.

I think the thing I struggle with is that I miss the sweetness of the days in which perhaps zeal meant more to me than knowledge. Maybe I was wrong to pull random verses out of the Bible and twist them until they fit my particular circumstance. What I know now, though, is that the opposite of that, which in my case is doing nothing, is more wrong.

I feel lost most of the time. I don’t “feel” God like I used to. I’m not asking for a pentecostal experience here, but I do want to remember the discipline that carried a delight along with the duty.

I remember it and I want it again.

So I read Mark 8 tonight. Two verses in particular struck me, 6-7, “…This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

I have been stamped with the Pharisee sticker. I see this in me so clearly. I make my kids go to church. I make me go to church. I talk all about God, but rarely do I talk to God.

Forgive me, Lord, for how far my tendency to wander has taken me off course. I do not want to have an in-words-only relationship with you. I know in my head that I’m Yours. I want to know it in my heart too. Please, please, please. Let this be the time this sticks.

Amen.

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